Farmers rally against Agriculture Minister in centre of Berlin

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In Berlin, thousands of farmers are protesting against stricter regulations on insect and environmental protection, which they consider an existential threat to their businesses.

Thousands of farmers from all over Germany are clogging up the capital with their tractors. They have come to Berlin to rally in the heart of the capital out of anger at the German government’s agricultural policy. The organisers expected 10,000 participants and around 5000 tractors to attend a rally at the Brandenburg Gate. In the Berlin city area, greater traffic obstructions are expected due to the arrival and departure of the tractors.

The protest is directed, among other things, at the ministry’s plan to introduce stricter regulations for insect and environmental protection as well as further fertilizer restrictions to protect the groundwater. The initiators criticize that this would jeopardize the existence of agricultural enterprises.

The rally was called by the initiative “Land schafft Verbindung” (“Land creates connections”), which brought together tens of thousands of farmers. It had already organised protests in mid-November at the Conference of Environment Ministers in Hamburg.

The agricultural policy changes, which the cabinet launched in September, have sparked some controversy. Among other things, the government plans to severely limit the use of herbicides and pesticides for the benefit of insects. Consumers in supermarkets will also see new logos identifying pork from better animal farming conditions – but participation by farmers is voluntary. From the important EU agricultural subsidies to the farms, more money is to be reserved for environmental measures.

Klöckner: Adjustments necessary

Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner defended the planned reforms. The CDU politician said public radio that the adjustments were necessary to protect the environment: “On the one hand, we see a decline in insect numbers and diversity. On the other hand, we see that there is too much nitrate in some parts of the groundwater. And we see that there is a greater desire for animal welfare and better farming conditions.”

Klöckner pointed out that the farmers should receive more money so that they can take the measures. “It is in everyone’s interest that there should be regional agriculture, which is why the planned support programmes are also needed.”

Excessive demands and joint solutions

The FDP demanded that the agricultural package be put on hold. Agricultural expert Gero Hocker accused Klöckner of “selling out agriculture in Germany”. The policy on animal welfare, insect protection and fertiliser regulations led to the relocation of production abroad. Karlheinz Busen (FDP) warned of “excessive demands”. In order to prevent the death of farms across the country, politicians ought to “simply keep their feet still for a few years”.

Farmers’ president Joachim Rukwied called for a fundamental revision of the plans for insect protection. Instead of bans, farmers, politicians and nature conservation organisations should “find solutions together on how nature and species protection can be further improved while maintaining the competitiveness of agricultural enterprises”, he commented.

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